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What career would combine cars and computers?

I absolutely love cars and computers. I tinker around with both a lot, because it's what I'm most interested in. It's my dream job working with a computer in a car or something like that. #computer

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Darci’s Answer

Hi Jonathan,
As we move more into an era where cars and computers are extremely integrated, to the point that autonomous vehicles are becoming a reality, it is becoming more important for car manufacturers to obtain individuals with degrees/deep interest in computer sciences. The example with the highest amount of press as of late is Tesla. Their vehicles are literally driving computers. The path you will most likely want to take will either focus on engineering (mechanical or electrical) as well as software design or other computer science majors (machine learning would be a great focus area). Computers have long been managing the many mechanical decisions that go into running a car, but they are now making more and more decisions that would normally have been up to the driver to decide. All manufacturers are moving into this space, so any car company you can think of will likely need someone with your passion.

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Tye’s Answer

Hi Jonathan, 

Like you, I also have loved cars and computers since I was young. I don't currently work with cars professionally, but I do work on them as a hobby.

As Darci pointed out, self-driving cars is a great example of the perfect cross between the two, and the suggested areas are things to consider.

That said, there are other ways in which computers have played a pivotal role in vehicles for quite some time, and most likely will for a long time. One very prominent early uses of computers in cars is the ECU, or Engine Control Unit. As you may know, this is the computer that controls different portions of the engine. Their primary function is to ensure that the engine is running at the optimal air fuel ratio for efficiency, power, and emissions.

As computers have progressed, there are usually several computers working together with the ECU to help manage things like traction control, braking, cruise control, and more. Understanding how these computers interface with the mechanical portions of the car, and ultimately being able to design or program them, will likely be a useful skill for some time to come.

Here are a few resources related to car computers and their communication that might be useful to look into:

- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engine_control_unit

- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CAN_bus

- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On-board_diagnostics

Some people with our same interests wanted to be able to control their engine better, and as a result, created a programmable engine management system called Megasquirt (http://megasquirt.info). People often use this when modifying their cars so that can help the car handle modifications in a way that the original ECU could not. Although I wouldn't necessarily advise doing this to your car, it's a very approachable way to see how an engine management system works.

I really hope you continue to look for the intersection of cars and computers. Being able to do something you love is a huge motivator, but being able to do two things you love is even better. Good luck!

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James Constantine’s Answer

Hello Jonathan!

A career that combines cars and computers is Automotive Electronics Engineer or Vehicle Systems Software Engineer. These professionals design, develop, and integrate computer systems, electronic controls, and software in modern vehicles, merging their knowledge of both automotive and computer technologies. They work on various aspects of a car’s electronic systems, such as engine management, infotainment, safety features, and autonomous driving systems.

GOD BLESS,
James Constantine.
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